Tensions within the New York Red Bulls locker room spilled out to the press Wednesday after the club had an embarrassing 3-1 home defeat at the hands of Real Salt Lake.
Already the subject of criticism from both fans and media alike for not living up to his Designated Player salary estimated at $4.5 million, Rafa Marquez responded saying that his teammates are not up to his standards.
“I’m focusing on really performing at my highest level. That doesn’t mean that the whole backline can perform at that same level, so that’s a problem,” Marquez said to the New York Daily News through an interpreter.
"I think this is a team game and unfortunately there isn't an equal level between my teammates and I."
It is thought that the former Barcelona defender was furious at the mistakes of his fellow defenders Tim Ream and Teemu Tainio, whose miscues gave RSL an early 2-0 lead that was difficult to surmount. Those mistakes paired with being booed by fans every time he touched the ball sent Marquez over the top.
After becoming the most expensive team in Major League Soccer history, the Red Bulls have failed to live up to expectations with a record of 7-7-15. The team is fighting for the final spot in the playoffs with five games remaining.
Part of Marquez’s struggles has been a result of his shift from being a defensive midfielder to center back this season. Last season, he excelled as a midfield creator using his technical skills to find his teammates, stopping midfield momentum and clearing up defensive mistakes.
This year, being limited to a central defensive role has limited his effectiveness and it is arguable that he and Ream don’t fit well in the back because both players are finesse defenders. Usually, the best defensive combinations are the ones that mix finesse and physical styles.
Marquez admitted that in a effort to create some of the opportunities that he was able to do last years he has taken some gambles that he wouldn’t normally if there was a similar player on his level in the holding role.
“There have been some mistakes, but if you see the statistics I’m trying to steal balls, get them back for the team, make a couple of good passes,” said Marquez, according to the newspaper.
After being labeled as title contenders during preseason, it is clear that the team has regressed since last season. In an exclusive interview with Goal.com three weeks prior to the eventually rescheduled match against Los Angeles, midfielder Joel Lindpere revealed that a combination of losing players to the Gold Cup and the various assortment of player personnel moves caused a lack of confidence within the squad.
"With players coming in and out, it’s hard to get that understanding,” Lindpere explained.
The Estonian mentioned that a lack of belief was what held the team back and he believes that that started after the team’s shocking upset in last year’s playoffs. With the past two years having seen two of the final seeded teams in RSL and the Colorado Rapids win the MLS Cup, some players on the squad hinted that the regular season hasn’t been taken as seriously as it should be.
Still, Lindpere believes if the Red Bulls make this year’s playoffs, they will be just as scary as any other team.
“Last year, I honestly didn’t think that Colorado would make the playoffs and they won the championship,” said Lindpere. “Looking at the list of teams in the playoffs currently, there isn’t a team that I think we can’t beat.”